Catecholaminergic modulation of the avoidance of cognitive control.

The catecholamines have long been associated with cognitive control and value-based decision-making. More recently, we proposed that the catecholamines might modulate value-based decision-making about whether or not to engage in cognitive control. We test this hypothesis by assessing effects of a catecholamine challenge in a large sample of young, healthy adults (n = 100) on the avoidance of a cognitively demanding control process: task switching. Prolonging catecholamine transmission by blocking reuptake with methylphenidate altered the avoidance, but not the execution of cognitive control. Crucially, these effects could be isolated by taking into account individual differences in trait impulsivity, so that participants with higher trait impulsivity became more avoidant of cognitive control, despite faster task performance. One implication of these findings is that performance-enhancing effects of methylphenidate may be accompanied by an undermining effect on the willingness to exert cognitive control. Taken together, these findings integrate hitherto segregated literatures on catecholamines’ roles in value-based learning/choice and cognitive control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)